We — I wasn’t alone, I had two friends with me — arrived at the Arcadian Shop in Lenox, MA, in the early afternoon. We rented snowshoes and poles for $20 and proceeded into the woods behind the shop. The original intention was to go up to the Pleasant Valley Wildlife Sanctuary, but Kennedy Park, the area right behind the shop, seemed like as good a place as any to dabble in snowshoeing for the first time. We spent a little over an hour tromping around the various park trails, figuring out snowshoeing technique, and being quite cold (it was in the teens or colder and blowing snow all afternoon).
Specifically, if you look at the map of the park, we started out on “Woolsey Road” (27) then transferred to “Overview” (11), then to “Weaver Olympics” (20) and up to the Lookout, then the return trip on “Deer Run” (5), and finally “Greenfield” (28). Afterward, we went to the Arcadian’s coffee shop to warm up, poked around the store, and went home, all having decided that snowshoeing was an experience we’d like to repeat.
- Snowshoeing isn’t that different from hiking. Yes, there is snow on the ground. Yes, your steps have to be adjusted (a slightly wider stance) to accomodate for the shoes. And yes, there are some techniques (like throwing your weight onto your toe while going downhill so that the spikes under the shoe dig into the snow) that are counterintuitive, but they aren’t hard to figure out and once you do, you’re pretty much taking a walk in the woods — albeit with appropriate footwear for the terrain.
- Appropriate clothing (as with any outdoor activity) is very important. I didn’t have it. I had warm gloves, and head covering, and a good warm coat, and you can snowshoe in your hiking boots, but there was one major fail. If you look at the photos of my feet, you’ll see that I’m wearing jeans. Of all my choices, this was probably the best, but it wasn’t good. When you snowshoe, the rear of the shoes scoops snow and kicks it up toward the back of your legs. This means that, after not too long, the calves of my jeans were drenched and then frozen. Since I’m not a winter hiker, I don’t have weather-appropriate pants, so I made do with what I had. This was okay for our dabble in a well-frequented area, but in the future I’m going to acquire and use more appropriate clothing. Some long underwear, for one, to wear as a bottom layer, and I’m planning to purchase a pair of gaiters, which I think will solve the problem:
- Wintersports don’t have to be complicated. Much like I have said that hiking doesn’t have to be complicated, neither does snowshoeing. Sure, you need that bit of extra equipment, but there are lots of rental places around that make it easy to acquire with very little fuss. And if you own snowshoes (which I intend to do very soon), you make it even easier, so that snowshoeing is no more complicated than strapping on your hiking boots and hitting the trail. This is a revelation to me, since I always viewed winter activities as a hassle. I’m going to try to drop my preconceptions here and try other things.
So what’s next? I think cross-country skiing is in my future…
© Her Side of the Mountain, 2010.